“Engrossing, Brain-Tickling” Refutation of Al Gore’s Global Warming Assertions

LomborgBjornCoolItDocumentary2010-10-25.jpg “The Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg in “Cool It,” a documentary based on his book.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT review quoted and cited below.

(p. C8) Debunking claims made by “An Inconvenient Truth” and presenting alternative strategies, “Cool It” finally blossoms into an engrossing, brain-tickling picture as many of Al Gore’s meticulously graphed assertions are systematically — and persuasively — refuted. (I was intrigued to hear Mr. Lomborg say, for instance, that the polar-bear population is more endangered by hunters than melting ice.)
. . .
. . . “Cool It” is all about the pep: playing down the talking heads and playing up the “git ‘er done.” If algae can suck up carbon dioxide and spit out oil, what on earth are we worrying about?

For the full review, see:
JEANNETTE CATSOULIS. “Global Warming and Common Sense.” The New York Times (Fri., November 12, 2010): C8.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 11, 2010.)

The documentary is based on the book:
Lomborg, Bjørn. Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

Pretentious Studios Were Pushed Aside by Grounded Googlers

(p. 261) Kamangar didn’t put a value judgment on the way the labels and studios worked but tried to crack their code, talking to executives, producers, agents, and managers. One day he happened to be in New York and was invited to meet with the CEO of Universal Music Group, Doug Morris. Kamangar was escorted by bodyguards to a private elevator and ushered to a fancy office high above the city. He couldn’t help thinking of the contrast with Google, where you stumbled in and went to the microkitchen for coffee. Kamangar didn’t dwell on the (p. 262) irony that it was the scruffy kids in shorts, munching energy bars and writing analytics programs, who were pushing aside the old power structure. While he put the pieces of YouTube together, though, he always kept in mind that he was documenting a traditional media system on the verge of collapse. He had to deal with the music world as it was but also plan for the way it would be after disruptions, which Google and YouTube were accelerating.

Levy, Steven. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

After Humans, Earth Would Quickly Revert to Its Pre-Human Condition


Source of book image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/88/The_World_Without_Us_(US_cover).jpg

When I saw the mention of this book, quoted below, I thought it must be closely related to the 2008 History Channel program “Life Without Us” that I liked very much. Apparently the two overlap on the message that a post-human planet Earth would quickly return to its pre-human condition, but they differ in that the program does not share the book’s anti-technology leitmotif.
The main take-away from the program, for me, was that environmentalists worry too much about the long-term damage that humans can do to the planet—for the most part, the planet is pretty resilient and can quickly return itself to something close to its pre-human condition.

(p. C10) Mr. Weisman’s 2007 book, “The World Without Us,” was a surprise best seller that imagined what would happen to the planet were all humans to suddenly disappear. Turns out that nature would in short order erase pretty much everything we’ve done.

MICHAEL SHERMER. “Menace to the Planet?” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Oct. 5, 2013): C10.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 4, 2013, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Book Review: ‘Ten Billion’ by Stephen Emmott | ‘Countdown’ by Alan Weisman; While some worry a booming population doom the planet, in many Western countries there is now a birth dearth.”)

The book mentioned is:
Weisman, Alan. The World without Us. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007.

Companies Do Less R&D in Countries that Steal Intellectual Property

The conclusions of Gupta and Wang, quoted below, are consistent with research done many years ago by economist Edwin Mansfield.

(p. A15) China’s indigenous innovation program, launched in 2006, has alarmed the world’s technology giants more than any other policy measure since the start of economic reforms in 1978. A recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce even went so far as to call this program “a blueprint for technology theft on a scale the world has not seen before.”
. . .
A comparison with India is illustrative. India has no equivalent to indigenous innovation rules. The government also is content to allow companies to set up R&D facilities without any rules about sharing technology with local partners or the like.
These policy differences appear to have a significant influence on corporate behavior. Consider the top 10 U.S.-based technology giants that received the most patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) between 2006 and 2010: IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Micron, GE, Cisco, Texas Instruments, Broadcom and Honeywell.
Half of these companies appear not to be doing any significant R&D work in China. Between 2006 and 2010, the U.S. PTO did not award a single patent to any China-based units of five out of the 10 companies. In contrast, only one of the 10 did not receive a patent for an innovation developed in India.

For the full commentary, see:
Anil K. Gupta and Haiyan Wang. “How Beijing Is Stifling Chinese Innovation.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., September 1, 2011): A15.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the title “Beijing Is Stifling Chinese Innovation.”)

Mansfield’s relevant paper is:
Mansfield, Edwin. “Unauthorized Use of Intellectual Property: Effects on Investment, Technology Transfer, and Innovation.” In Global Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights in Science and Technology, edited by M. E. Mogee M. B. Wallerstein, and R. A. Schoen. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1993, pp. 107-45.

Mansfield’s research on this issue is discussed on pp. 1611-1612 of:
Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. “Edwin Mansfield’s Contributions to the Economics of Technology.” Research Policy 32, no. 9 (Oct. 2003): 1607-17.

Booker Bravely Boosted Bain

MurphyAndBookerMeetThePress2010-10-25.jpg “Cory A. Booker, right, the Democratic mayor of Newark, on “Meet the Press” with Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist. “Enough is enough,” Mr. Booker said of attacks in the presidential race.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

Romney was criticized for his past association with Bain Capital which was criticized for its role in the process of creative destruction. Democrat Cory Booker, to his credit, defended Bain. (But to his discredit, he later went wobbly when fellow Democrats were appalled by his defense.)

(p. A15) Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark, a prominent Democrat enlisted as a surrogate for President Obama’s campaign, sharply criticized it on Sunday for attacking Mitt Romney’s work at the private equity firm Bain Capital.

Mr. Booker, speaking on the NBC program “Meet the Press,” made his comments in response to a television advertisement the president’s campaign unveiled last week. It portrays Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, as someone who eliminated jobs for the sake of profits during his years running Bain Capital.
“I have to just say, from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity,” Mr. Booker said. “To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America, especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.”

For the full story, see:
RAYMOND HERNANDEZ. “Newark Mayor Criticizes Obama’s Ad.” The New York Times (Mon., May 21, 2012): A15.
(Note: the online version of the article has the date May 20, 2012, and has the title “Surrogate for Obama Denounces Anti-Romney Ad.”)

Google Was Lax in Killing Failed Projects

(p. 255) Oddly, whereas Google had built its data infrastructure to reroute around failure, it had no human infrastructure to deal with failed projects. “We didn’t know which ones they were, because we never paused to ask ourselves that question,” says Pichette. “The people working on that project know it’s failing– as senior management you have to say, ‘Let’s declare failure– let’s get the champagne out and kill this puppy. Then we can put you on stuff that’s really cool and sexy.'” That had always been part of Google’s philosophy, but whether from lack of rigor or just distraction, the company had been lax in actually issuing execution orders. One of the first puppies Pichette helped drown was a virtual-reality-style communications program called Lively.

Levy, Steven. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

Foreign Aid Frees Despots from Having to Seek the Consent of the Governed


Source of book image: online version of the NYT review quoted and cited below.

(p. 4) IN his new book, Angus Deaton, an expert’s expert on global poverty and foreign aid, puts his considerable reputation on the line and declares that foreign aid does more harm than good. It corrupts governments and rarely reaches the poor, he argues, and it is high time for the paternalistic West to step away and allow the developing world to solve its own problems.

It is a provocative and cogently argued claim. The only odd part is how it is made. It is tacked on as the concluding section of “The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality” (Princeton University Press, 360 pages), an illuminating and inspiring history of how mankind’s longevity and prosperity have soared to breathtaking heights in modern times.
. . .
THE author has found no credible evidence that foreign aid promotes economic growth; indeed, he says, signs show that the relationship is negative. Regretfully, he identifies a “central dilemma”: When the conditions for development are present, aid is not required. When they do not exist, aid is not useful and probably damaging.
Professor Deaton makes the case that foreign aid is antidemocratic because it frees local leaders from having to obtain the consent of the governed. “Western-led population control, often with the assistance of nondemocratic or well-rewarded recipient governments, is the most egregious example of antidemocratic and oppressive aid,” he writes. In its day, it seemed like a no-brainer. Yet the global population grew by four billion in half a century, and the vast majority of the seven billion people now on the planet live longer and more prosperous lives than their parents did.

For the full review, see:
FRED ANDREWS. “OFF THE SHELF; A Surprising Case Against Foreign Aid.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., October 13, 2013): 4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date October 12, 2013.)

The book reviewed is:
Deaton, Angus. The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2013.